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The Chocolate Drop - Tropical Watches We Love

Posted on July 02 2021

The Chocolate Drop - Tropical Watches We Love

 

Happy weekend watch lovers! In this week’s instalment, we are paying homage to everybody’s favourite treat

 It might be silly, but what the hell, we'll take any reason to celebrate after the last 18 months and what could be more enjoyable than a day dedicated to chocolate?

So ahead of World Chocolate Day (7th July) we have rounded up our favourite ‘chocolate’ watches for your viewing pleasure.  


A black or dark watch dial that has faded to a nice brown is often referred to as chocolate or tropical — and while some might reasonably think this means a ruined watch, for us in the know, the fascinating colour combinations, organic textures, and charming character all add to the appeal.

In fact, some ‘tropical’ watches are among the most coveted and rarest vintage timepieces in the world – a happy accident on the part of brands such as Rolex and Omega amongst others who sourced dials from manufacturers who used materials that, for various reasons, changed in appearance over time. So, when the dials began to fade, purportedly in warmer climes, the watches became known as ‘tropical’ as they took on rich chocolate hues.

Wipe your chin, crack open a Yorkie and get your gnashers around this little lot…

A Stunning Tropical Dial - Omega Flightmaster Chronograph GMT - Model Ref: 145.026 - Cal. 911 - c.1971

This substantial vintage Omega Flightmaster wristwatch (model 145.026 dates to c.1971) encompasses a truly unique tropicalised taupe dial with vivid orange and blue chronograph/GMT hands. Additionally, the chronograph subdials compliment the main dial perfectly with a beautifully rich chocolate hue.

First produced in 1969, The Flightmaster was Omega's first Chronograph GMT and came at the height of global interest in aviation as Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin successfully completed moonwalks during the Apollo 11 mission. This was a watch worn on official NASA/Soyuz missions, with American astronauts and Russian cosmonauts relying on their accuracy and functionality in the harshest of conditions. It has also been reported that most senior crewmembers aboard the British Airways Concorde fleet wore this watch.

The main dial is a standard chronograph with three sub dials displaying constant seconds and registers for recording minutes and hours. The elegantly curved stainless steel case boasts crowns to the left side for adjusting the secondary hour hand, along with rotating the inner bezel.

The bezel can also be used to measure time elapsed by lining the triangular marker up with either the minute or either one of the hour hands.

The watch also has a 12-hour GMT complication, with the hand moving independently and set through the auxiliary crown, located at 10 o’clock on the case. The case back features a crisply engraved DC-8 super 61 Jet Aeroplane along with the word ‘Flightmaster’ and the instantly recognisable Omega symbol.

Despite its substantial size and robust appearance, the Flightmaster Chronograph is extremely comfortable to wear, due to the ergonomics of the case, a style that Omega refers to as the ‘pilot line’.

Cut from a single block of Swedish stainless steel, the upper case was pressed and tempered sixteen times before assuming its unique elliptical shape, designed to fit the contours of the wrist like a second skin. 


 

 

Rolex Oyster Perpetual 'James Bond' Submariner -Tropical Dial - Ref. 5508 - Gilt Writing and Chapter Ring Dial - c. 1958

A rare and highly-prized piece of watchmaking history, this vintage Rolex Oyster Perpetual Submariner wristwatch (Rolex reference 5508) dates all the way back to 1958! 

Four years later, Sean Connery would wear a close sibling of this Submariner (ref. 6538) as James Bond in ‘Dr No’ - the very first Bond film ever made. This earned the watch its ‘James Bond’ nickname and Connery was also seen wearing a Submariner in subsequent installments (including ‘Thunderball’ and ‘From Russia with Love,’) forever linking the model with the iconic British spy.

A much desired and sought-after collectible, the watch has a serial number of 400xxx, dating it to 1958, and is a small crown version of the Submariner (a larger crown version was also produced).

The watch is sold with its original gilt chapter ring dial in black with gold markers and writing - an original, unusual, and highly prized example of the model, very much in demand by vintage watch collectors and Rolex enthusiasts around the world. The watch also features ‘Mercedes’ style hands and the dial has started to fade to a beautiful tropical patina with flashes of chocolate brown. 

Powered by a Rolex 1530 caliber movement with 25 jewels, the watch is sold on a period-correct (1963) stainless steel bracelet, which perfectly complements the sublime and unpolished stainless steel case. An absolute delight!


 

 

Ebel ATP - Push-through case back -
WWII British Army-Issue c.1944

One of the elusive 'ATP' series, this Ebel has quite literally been through the wars, but lacks the scars to show for it. A precursor to the famous ‘Dirty Dozen’ watches, produced for the British Armed Forces during World War II by 12 world-famous watch manufacturers (hence the nickname). The ATP (Army Trade Pattern) series of watches was made available at the start of WWII via a Military of Defence contract with 17 Swiss suppliers in 1939 (amazingly, in an effort to demonstrate neutrality, the Swiss supplied almost identical watches, this time with black dials, to the Germany military).

Just over 133,000 ATP watches were produced during World War II, and while the watches were meant to have been destroyed as fighting drew to a close, many were decommissioned and some continued in service. 

The ATP watches are considered true British Military watches, made available at the beginning of the Second World War by an MoD (Ministry of Defence) agreement with 16 Swiss watch manufacturers, dating from 1939. Of these 16, Timor, Ebel, Lemania and Revue each made two variants, often denoted by a small variation in the dial, case back or movement. In this case, it's the case back: the other Ebel ATP variant features a 'screw-down' case back, unlike the push-through variant seen here. This case back features smoother edges with rounder extremities for a slightly comfier wear.  

Ebel's ATP issues have become highly desirable as vintage pieces due to their solid 32mm stainless steel case construction: many other variants from manufacturers such as Reconvilier, Leonidas or Moeris were plated with nickel due to tight wartime budgets.

Shortly before writing this, I timed the Ebel on the timegrapher, where it performed amazingly. It's running to under a second gain/loss a day, with strong amplitude. 

 

c.1940s - Henri Blanc - A Vintage Wristwatch with Two-Tone Chocolate Dial - Original Radium Lume

Henri Blanc was born in Neuchâtel (Switzerland) in 1873. He was the son of the watchmaker Sylvain Blanc who moved to Geneva around 1886. Henri attended the Geneva watchmaking school from 1889 to 1894. In 1894, Henri Blanc opened a watch shop in Geneva. The company was located at 37 Rue du Rhone.

Henri Blanc initially specialized in clocks and looked after the city's pendulum clocks, his good name making him responsible for the maintenance of the city's clocks. He was also involved in the renovation of the bells of the Saint-Pierre cathedral. After the First World War, he entered the world of wristwatches.

Even though set in a 32mm case, this watch look and wears both on and off the wrist, much larger. This Henri Blanc oozes vintage character with its deliciously two-tone chocolate dial and beautiful freckling of pumpkin patina, giving the illusion of a slight pie pan adding a rich depth and bucket loads of charm.

The applied radium Arabic numerals are in remarkable condition as are the elegant pencil hands with lume intact, a rather magnificent feat given the age of the watch. 

This would make a beautiful vintage dress for that special occasion, or indeed even a tool watch to be worn on a daily basis. The delightful scripted signature at 12 o'clock, the ornate chapter ring with 5-second markers, the needle-like seconds hand, and of course, the tantalising tropicalisation, come together in a watch ameliorated by time. 

The watch keeps excellent time having been fully inspected, cleaned, and serviced by our most trusted watchmaker. The nickel-chrome plated case has also been ultrasonically cleaned (NOT polished!) to remove rubbed in dirt and grease etc. 

In conclusion, this watch is the 'Toffee Penny' of the chocolate box, and whoever acquires it will treasure it for years to come. 

     

    It's everybody's favourite - that's why there are never
    enough in the chocolate box...


    We are just teasing with this one as it's not actually for sale - we simply can't bear to part with it......sorry. Alas, all is not lost,  have a look at our website, we have a wide range of vintage military watches if that happens to be your thing. 

    Back to the Cyma.....In the closing years of World War II, a basic but carefully specified model wristwatch was commissioned to members of the British armed forces by the Ministry of Defence - manufactured by one of twelve watchmakers who delivered 20,000 of these Cymas to the MoD in 1944 and 1945.

    These manufacturers (Buren, Cyma, Eterna, Grana, JLC, Lemania, Longines, IWC, Omega, Record, Timor, and Vertex) later came to be known as ‘The Dirty Dozen’ in the mid-1960s, after the release of the popular war film of the same name. 

    These Dirty Dozen sets are now highly sought after by military watch collectors and enthusiasts alike, and we have been delighted to help a number of our clients complete these full sets in recent years. 

    Each watch was commissioned and manufactured with similar specifications and, as military issues, were hard-wearing, highly legible, and water-resistant with stainless steel or nickel-plated cases, shatterproof crystal, and fixed lug bars.

    Watches were, as standard, capable of chronometer-accuracy - hand-wound with a 15-jewel movement. Each piece also had a large black dial with white Arabic characters, luminous hands, and indices and a ‘railroad’ minute track with a small sub-seconds dial at 6 o’clock.